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Technology Issue

My cable service went out and stayed out for six days. I loathe cable companies as much as the next man, but if cornered, I‘d have to admit this has never happened before. I was an innocent.

The cable outage occurred at the worst possible time — the weekend was coming up fast and I had no TV for the Padres/Giants series, all of college football, Vick vs. McNabb, NHL, NASCAR, Major League Soccer, Tiger Woods’s destructo run at the Ryder Cup, NBA preseason, plus late-night outdoor hunting shows. I had to find an alternative, fast.

Spoiler alert. This column should be headlined, “Technology Issue for People Who Are 10 Years Behind the Curve,” but that takes too many words. Just keep it in mind.

I own obsolete media: last century’s flat-screen Sony Wega TV, a now useless TiVo, a Roku player, and a two-year-old iMac. There is broadband internet service. At the same time, and having nothing to do with my cable outage, I acquired a new iTouch, which, for those living off the land in Nova Scotia, is an iPhone without the phone. Practical reasons. The iTouch has a camera, a camcorder, and digital tape recorder built in. This is stuff I take with me on interviews. Suddenly, I can subtract three items and add back in one 3.5 ounce item. The new item also plays music and movies, does email and internet. More of this anon.

I acquired a Roku player three years back for $99 and no monthly fee. It’s an internet video-streaming receiver that has Wi-Fi built in. There’s an Ethernet port as well. The player connects to your TV by way of HDMI port or composite A/V cable. Easy, simple, does what it says it will do and does it well.

The Roku enticement was Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand delivered to my TV. There were other Roku “channels,” which were useless to me: Cowboy Classics, Midwest Cage Championship, NASA TV, Bigstar.tv, blip.tv. None was a grabber, and some demanded money (Major League Baseball and porn). Roku has gradually added new channels, but the latest one — one I noticed for the first time yesterday — is Roku NEWSCASTER. Roku’s newscaster channel is free and has same-day CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press, 60 Minutes, Rachel Maddow, Fox News Sunday, BBC, and so on. All the shows (at least the ones I looked at) are stripped of commercials. Since 95 percent of the TV I watch is news and sports, suddenly half of my TV needs are covered with the bonus of being able to watch when it pleases me.

This is old, old news to the media-proficient reader. Forget about him — this is news for the likes of you and me.

Back to the column. I sat before my iMac to Google “live tv on internet,” “nfl on internet,” and “mlb on internet.” I never got past the first search.

I’ll stop for a break here. I think the word “everything” is what I’m looking for. Yes, that’s it, EVERYTHING. You can watch everything on the internet.

There’s HBO, Showtime, NFL Network, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS, BBC, DirecTV Sunday Ticket, for openers. You can watch movies by category (western, history, comedy, adventure, romance, sci-fi). You can watch local news in New York or Youngstown, Ohio. You can enjoy six Afghanistan television channels, catch up on the news in Greenland, Vatican City, Cambodia, Senegal, UK (Sky News in HD), Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Nepal, and Nigeria.

Some stations air recorded video, some are websites, and some are live. There are a lot of C-SPAN-like channels, religious channels, shopping channels, poker channels, mixed with general TV channels. Look around the internet and very quickly you’ll discover the world is 5000 TV channels delivering the same crap you see here.

This does not count people who stream TV from their computers. The technology of video-streaming and video-capture is so cheap that anybody can stream, say, the blacked-out Chargers/Cardinals game from their computer. Elgato makes a USB stick-sized TV tuner/recorder for Windows and Mac. Goes for 100 bucks and change. And a lot of internet TV is legit. PBS has some of their shows online, all the networks offer some of theirs, and Hulu, and the rest.

But you don’t want to sit in front of your computer, you want the couch. Not a problem. Sony is coming out with a Google TV product next week. It’s an HDTV that also has access to the entire Internet. Finally, remember the iTouch I bought? You can watch live TV on it.

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My cable service went out and stayed out for six days. I loathe cable companies as much as the next man, but if cornered, I‘d have to admit this has never happened before. I was an innocent.

The cable outage occurred at the worst possible time — the weekend was coming up fast and I had no TV for the Padres/Giants series, all of college football, Vick vs. McNabb, NHL, NASCAR, Major League Soccer, Tiger Woods’s destructo run at the Ryder Cup, NBA preseason, plus late-night outdoor hunting shows. I had to find an alternative, fast.

Spoiler alert. This column should be headlined, “Technology Issue for People Who Are 10 Years Behind the Curve,” but that takes too many words. Just keep it in mind.

I own obsolete media: last century’s flat-screen Sony Wega TV, a now useless TiVo, a Roku player, and a two-year-old iMac. There is broadband internet service. At the same time, and having nothing to do with my cable outage, I acquired a new iTouch, which, for those living off the land in Nova Scotia, is an iPhone without the phone. Practical reasons. The iTouch has a camera, a camcorder, and digital tape recorder built in. This is stuff I take with me on interviews. Suddenly, I can subtract three items and add back in one 3.5 ounce item. The new item also plays music and movies, does email and internet. More of this anon.

I acquired a Roku player three years back for $99 and no monthly fee. It’s an internet video-streaming receiver that has Wi-Fi built in. There’s an Ethernet port as well. The player connects to your TV by way of HDMI port or composite A/V cable. Easy, simple, does what it says it will do and does it well.

The Roku enticement was Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand delivered to my TV. There were other Roku “channels,” which were useless to me: Cowboy Classics, Midwest Cage Championship, NASA TV, Bigstar.tv, blip.tv. None was a grabber, and some demanded money (Major League Baseball and porn). Roku has gradually added new channels, but the latest one — one I noticed for the first time yesterday — is Roku NEWSCASTER. Roku’s newscaster channel is free and has same-day CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press, 60 Minutes, Rachel Maddow, Fox News Sunday, BBC, and so on. All the shows (at least the ones I looked at) are stripped of commercials. Since 95 percent of the TV I watch is news and sports, suddenly half of my TV needs are covered with the bonus of being able to watch when it pleases me.

This is old, old news to the media-proficient reader. Forget about him — this is news for the likes of you and me.

Back to the column. I sat before my iMac to Google “live tv on internet,” “nfl on internet,” and “mlb on internet.” I never got past the first search.

I’ll stop for a break here. I think the word “everything” is what I’m looking for. Yes, that’s it, EVERYTHING. You can watch everything on the internet.

There’s HBO, Showtime, NFL Network, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS, BBC, DirecTV Sunday Ticket, for openers. You can watch movies by category (western, history, comedy, adventure, romance, sci-fi). You can watch local news in New York or Youngstown, Ohio. You can enjoy six Afghanistan television channels, catch up on the news in Greenland, Vatican City, Cambodia, Senegal, UK (Sky News in HD), Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Nepal, and Nigeria.

Some stations air recorded video, some are websites, and some are live. There are a lot of C-SPAN-like channels, religious channels, shopping channels, poker channels, mixed with general TV channels. Look around the internet and very quickly you’ll discover the world is 5000 TV channels delivering the same crap you see here.

This does not count people who stream TV from their computers. The technology of video-streaming and video-capture is so cheap that anybody can stream, say, the blacked-out Chargers/Cardinals game from their computer. Elgato makes a USB stick-sized TV tuner/recorder for Windows and Mac. Goes for 100 bucks and change. And a lot of internet TV is legit. PBS has some of their shows online, all the networks offer some of theirs, and Hulu, and the rest.

But you don’t want to sit in front of your computer, you want the couch. Not a problem. Sony is coming out with a Google TV product next week. It’s an HDTV that also has access to the entire Internet. Finally, remember the iTouch I bought? You can watch live TV on it.

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Comments
1

Excellent article Patrick. I would go through withdrawal and anger toward my cable provider whenever the connection went out. If you have internet access there is a way to get TV programming with a service like Seetvpc.com. All the programming is there.
Another site is at LiveTVworldwide.com. The point is that there are options if you decide to drop cable tv and keep internet access to save money, or just out spite toward the Cable co's. Btw, there's an easy way to plug your computer into a TV using the S-cable, which is around $7 at radio shack. Then you can potato out :)

Oct. 6, 2010

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